Thursday, February 7, 2019

Remembering Doug Henning 19 years later

Doug Henning passed away 19th years ago on Feb 7th, 2000. It doesn't seem like that long has passed. I decided that I would put up some of my own recollections of Doug in the latest episode of the Magic Detective Podcast. I didn't want to do a biographical piece, at least not this time around. Rather, I just wanted to share some of my own thoughts. 

Doug was influential in my interest in magic. Over the course of my own career and development it seems I have done around 40 Henning tricks in my own shows. Now, I didn't always do them like he did, but they were material that I first saw Henning do. They range from close-up magic to stage magic to grand illusion. Doug was the first person I ever saw do many tricks. For example, Card Warp, I first was exposed to this on one of his specials. The Mental Photography Deck is another that I saw Doug do for the first time. Granted a lot of this stuff was already out there in the magic world, but because I was a kid at the time, Doug Henning was the first I saw present them.

He was the first I saw do The Needle through Balloon, the Al Wheatly One Cup routine, and he was the first to do Rubics Cube magic on TV! Talk about a trailblazer! Illusions, let's see, Shadow Box, Zig Zag, Mismade Lady, Microphone Suspension, Sword Suspension and more. All of these things I've listed are things I have since done. And of course, so have thousands of other performers as well. 

One of my favorite routines came from the 4th TV Special. It was a Monte Effect that boggled my mind when I first saw it on TV. Then later I saw Doug Henning perform it live several times. Years later, my friend Denny Haney would tell me where I could find that routine, it was locked away in a booklet, and thankfully I obtained it and learned it. I then wrote a script that was original to me and it became a signature trick in my own show.  In my show I tell the story of Houdini meeting a very young Charlie Chaplin for the first time, and the routine takes off from there. 

My podcast on Doug is the longest one I've done so far, almost an hour long. And I realized something after I finished the podcast. Doug's TV specials were great, but some were hit or miss. And it's hard to judge him from just the TV specials. However, in LIVE performances he was fantastic. He was charismatic and likable and he won over everyone with his joyful exuberance. He was a breath of fresh air and there has never been another like him since and there certainly wasn't anyone like him prior.  

Let's all remember Doug Henning on his day. What effect did he have on your magic? He paved the way for so many magical artists.  We were lucky to have him in our world.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Episode 12 Podcast Wyman the Wizard Notes

Episode 12 of the podcast is up and already getting downloads, thanks everyone! I don't have a lot of notes on this episode because most of it was covered in previous blog articles. However. I do have an image for you of Professor Pugh, the friend who Wyman met during his retirement. He gave or sold some of his props to Prof. Pugh and here is a photo of the good professor with them.

By the #s, there is #5 Little Bobbie, you can barely make out the carved head on this thing. # 6 is hard to see but it's in the back, the Spirit Clock/Dial. #7 is the rifle, or as it's listed, Gun and Target. #8 is that odd looking thing that the rifle is leaning against, it's a Pearl Inlaid Chair Back. #9 is pretty obvious, it's a Card Sword. #11 is the Money belt, though I don't see the number in the photo, but I do see the belt. And #13 is also not marked but it's the Canister and Bird Cage. You can see the cage right behind Little Bobbie. The man in the image is Prof. Pugh, not Wyman.

This is the link for the various articles on Wyman that can be found here on the blog...

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Grave of Olive Dot Robinson, Wife of Chung Ling Soo

Dot Robinson being floated by Harry Kellar
When it comes to one of the greatest magician's assistants in history, surely one of the early ones was also one of the best. Olive Robinson was the wife of William E. Robinson. She was born Olive Path and had been with William Robinson since the very beginning of his career. For a time she worked as Harry Kellar's chief assistant in his show. Her husband was stage manager, illusion designer, and even performed his Black Art Act in the show. Olive, or Dot as she was known because of her small size, presented The Cocoon Illusion in Harry Kellar's show. She also was featured in an amazing levitation that was co-created by her husband and several other magicians, the effect was known as Astarte.

Later, when the Robinson's were wooed away by Alexander Herrmann, she became an assistant in his show. Astarte was performed in Herrmann's show also, but it was retitled The Maid of the Moon, and again featured Dot Robinson.

Finally, when William Robinson decided to go out on his own, he presented a show as an Asian character named Chung Ling Soo. His wife Dot was renamed, Suee Seen, and became the chief assistant in her husband's show. So Dot Robinson got to perform with three of the most iconic magicians of their era.

After the tragic death of her husband, who was shot on stage at the Wood Green Empire Theatre in 1918, Dot Robinson quietly fades into the background. The book The Glorious Deception by Jim Steinmeyer, suggests that Dot had become embarrassed by the scandal and controversy involving her husbands death. In 1921, she leaves London without informing her friends there and relocates to New York. She moves not far from many well known magicians, including Houdini. But she never let anyone in America know of her move either. She remained in seclusion throughout the rest of her life. In 1933, Dot Robinson was diagnosed with cancer. She died the following year at the age of 71. Olive 'Dot' Robinson was buried in the Bronx in Woodlawn Cemetery in an unmarked grave. But that's not the end of the story.

In 2016, magic historian, Diego Domingo, started raising money to put a stone marketer on her grave. The dedication for the stone marker was Oct 24th, 2017. Olive Robinson is buried in the Robinson Family plot not far from Williams' brother, and apparently just down the path from one of her former employers Alexander Herrmann. And today she has a proper gravestone.
Photo courtesy Diego Domingo